What would happen if Russia defeated Ukraine? What are the conditions under which Moscow could claim to have won? And what consequences would there be for Europe, and for NATO?
What if Russia wins in Ukraine?
This question doesn’t put security experts in America and Europe to sleep, for two reasons:
a) there are very many probabilities that it will happen e
b) if this happens, America and Europe will have to rethink their idea of world order and live with a permanent and subtle Russian threat, increasingly capable of insinuating itself into their systems (political, economic and cultural).
The theme was taken head on by a long analysis of Foreign Affairs.
What would Russia’s victory be? Practically, an evolution similar to that of Syria: apparently not particularly solid, but perfect for Moscow’s interests.
When the Russians intervened in Syria in 2015, Barack Obama he said they had slipped into a quagmire, but in the end America ended up in the quagmire.
Russia, with sustainable losses, strengthened a friendly regime and gained decisive weight in the Middle East.
What is the parallel with Ukraine? The American magazine writes: For Russia, victory in Ukraine could take various forms. As in Syria, it does not necessarily have to result in a sustainable solution. It might involve the installation of a compliant government in Kiev or the division of the country. Alternatively, the defeat of the Ukrainian army e the negotiation of a surrender of Ukraine they could actually turn it into a puppet state. And above all, definitively detached from Europe.
The end of Europe as we know it
If Russia achieves its political goals in Ukraine by military means, Europe will no longer be what it was before the war. Why?
Why Europe and America will no longer even be able to pretend that NATO ensures stability for the whole continent: will hardly be able to do it for its members. Security in Europe will have to be reduced to defending key EU and NATO members. All those outside the two clubs will be left alone, with the exception of Finland and Sweden. It may not necessarily be a conscious decision, that of put an end to enlargement or association policies; but it will be a policy de facto.
Under a perceived siege by Russia, the EU and NATO will no longer have the capacity for ambitious policies beyond their borders.
The overturning of the concept of deterrence
To say that World War III cannot be waged because Russia has nuclear weapons, as did Biden, is the pure truth, but it also means take note that Putin has overturned the concept of nuclear deterrence: before you could not go to war for the certainty of a deadly answer, now war can be waged thanks to the certainty that there will be no (Western) answer.
as if the Western nuclear power had suddenly sprung up, while the Russian one at the maximum deterrent effectiveness.
Economic warfare and internal destabilization
The economic confrontation is likely to be permanent: The West will try to impose sweeping sanctions, which Russia is likely to agree with IT measures and energy blackmail, given the economic asymmetries.
But the greatest danger Europe and America will run within them: the domestic politics of European countries, in particular, will become the great game of the twenty-first centurywith Russia committed to studying every European nuance to favor a differentiation, if not a break in transatlantic solidarity and commitment to NATO.
Through even dirty methods, Russia will seize any opportunity to influence public opinion and elections in European countries. Russia will be an anarchist presence – sometimes real, sometimes imaginary – in any case of European political instability.
Not enough: conceivable a wave of refugees that will exacerbate the EU’s unresolved migration policy and provide fertile ground for populists.
And then, the holy grail of these information, political and cyber battles will be the 2024 presidential election in the United States. The future of Europe will depend on that appointment: if Trump or a Trumpian win, the transatlantic relationship could be destroyed at the hour of greatest danger for Europe. Attention: we are talking exactly about us, about the temptation that a part of politics will inevitably have, that of focusing on immediate interests (example: how much are we really willing to see the gas bill increase?) At the cost of sacrifice the underlying valueswhich then correspond to our long-term interests (in three words, democracy, peace and security).
But no permanent victory
But no permanent victory. Nor would Russia’s in Ukraine be. Because very often the seeds of problems lie under the veneer of military victory. And indeed: Russia can gut Ukraine on the battlefield. It can make Ukraine a failed state. But he can only do this by pursuing a criminal war and devastating the life of a nation-state that has never invaded Russia.
this is where Western values come into play, which can be the real winning weapon if supported consistently and patiently: Through their alliances and support for the Ukrainian people, the United States and Europe can embody the alternative to wars of aggression and the ethics of power. Russian efforts to sow disorder can be countered by Western efforts to restore order. The West can side with decency and dignity in this conflict. Wars won are never won forever. Time often defeats countries that win the wrong wars.
This article was first published in the Corriere Press Review, available to all subscribers. Who has not yet subscribed you can find here the ways to do itand have access to all the contents of the site, all the newsletters and podcasts, and to the historical archive of the newspaper.